Tonight, my mind is drifting in and out of the past, present and future. The undulation of emotions is almost hypnotic as my soul succumbs to the whisperings in my head. My breathing is slow and shallow as I give myself permission to let go and feel every emotion I have been suppressing for decades.
There is not much I remember from my childhood years. My past is full of fragmented memories and empty places. The trauma and pain I experienced created darkness in places where there should have been light, and fear taught me how to hide in the shadows. I went through this period of my life much like a chameleon. I learned how to camouflage, deflect, and protect myself from predators – both real and imagined.
The ability to morph into whatever was required in the moment became a skill that was as natural as breathing. I didn’t have to think about anything. I had learned the art of observation. I would observe the situation, circumstance and individual(s) and become whatever was necessary to keep myself safe. My fight or flight response was always on high alert.
My fight response was mostly a steadfastness of mind and heart. I refused to back down, bow down or shrink in this state. As a matter of fact, I would adjust myself to stand out from the crowd. Some would call that tenacity, but it was, and still is a coping mechanism. Now my flight response was completely different. I wouldn’t run away from anything in this state, but I would hide myself in quietness. I would easily slip into the shadows making it difficult for others to see me in my vulnerability. In all honesty, I still operate in much the same way as an adult. It is more refined, but it is still there.
Years of my life have been buried and forgotten by the protection mechanism in my brain. While these earliest memories have been banished into the abyss of the forgotten, they still whisper to me in my dreams. They are held captive in my subconscious where they can no longer hurt me. However, even though they are in captivity, they still whisper in my ear, taunting me to let them free.
I inhale deeply and hold my breath before exhaling slowly releasing the weight of my past. I must do this several times to bring me to the present.
Here in the present, life makes more sense. My adult brain can now analyze and comprehend what I could not as a child. I have forgiven the offenses of many. I have forgiven those who harmed me emotionally and physically. I forgave because I could no longer carry the weight of unforgiveness. Forgiveness let me move forward in my life. I was the victim. It was not my fault. My forgiveness did not absolve those who harmed me – it set me free.
While many of my memories are still fragmented in the darkness, there are those that shine like the morning sun. It is the simple things that stick out, like my mom’s laughter and love, playing cards with my grandparents, and holding my dad’s hand as we walked to the riverbank.
My mom was my best friend. She did everything she could to make sure me and my siblings had what we needed and sometimes what we wanted. She worked hard and played harder. I learned my work ethic from her. The best of times was being at my grandparent’s ranch, riding horses, canning fruits and vegetables, spending holidays with family, and the smell of my grandma’s cooking. Theirs was a simple life of living off the land. They always made room for those in need and had extra plates for people who would drop in around dinner time unannounced. I learned grace and compassion from them. My parents divorced when I was a baby, so my time with my dad was mostly every other weekend and two weeks in the summer. He was a quiet man of few words. He loved the outdoors and was a child at heart. I learned to be content when I was with him because my time with him was so precious to me.
Memories. They are swirling inside my head. I must take another deep breath and exhale slowly. Here in the present, I am grateful for the time and relationship I had with each of my family members. I laugh to myself as I think about my two older brothers.
As siblings, we had a love-annoyance relationship. I’m sure that’s typical in most families though. We would laugh together and fight one another, but we were, and still are, always there for each other. I was the little sister and the baby of the bunch. I always wanted to tag along wherever they would go. Being the only girl was hard but spending time with my brothers taught me how to be strong in the face of adversity and competitive in life.
As I look to the future, I wonder what our children, current and future grandchildren will be like. I wonder about the world they will grow up in and how they will remember us when we are gone. I know they will have good work ethics, compassion, competitiveness, and love in abundance because that is in their DNA. The future is ahead, and the past is behind, so I will live in the present today. That is the gift of life.
My mind is still drifting, and my emotions are still undulating but my heart is encouraged. I will sleep easy tonight with the good memories of the past, hope for the future and a gratefulness for the present.